For millions watching in the UK and around the world, anticipating the looming Brexit deadline over the past two years has been like watching the slowest train wreck in history. But for those not following the coverage daily, the impending UK secession from the European Union is mystifying. Just how many trains are there, and where are they coming from, and how fast, exactly, are they going?
From the future of food and drug imports, to the status of the “currently invisible” border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to all of the legal minutiae no one mentioned during the campaign, the consequences of the recent failure of a Brexit deal could be disastrous. Were “leave” campaigners honest in their sale of Brexit to the voters? Did they have any idea how such a thing would work? Ample evidence shows the answer to both questions is an unqualified No.
The Vote Leave campaign director now describes the referendum as a “dumb idea.” Wealthy UK residents, including many a Brexit politician, are fast moving their assets out of the country. So how did Brexit get sold to voters if it’s such a potential catastrophe? The usual methods worked quite well, Stephen Fry explains in the video above.
By stoking xenophobic fears over migrants and refugees, Brexiteers, he says, created “false assumptions about the EU, some very dark, and some comical.” They were assisted in conjuring a “mythical EU dragon” by tabloid journalists who called migrants “cockroaches” and “feral humans.” Rhetoric indistinguishable from Nazi propaganda drove a spike in hate crimes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Despite the insistence of many voters that their choice was not driven by racial animus, the Brexit campaign, like the Trump campaign, Fry says above, undeniably was. The consequences of these votes for migrant workers and refugees speak for themselves. In the UK, Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policies have deprived British citizens from migrant families of livelihoods and safety. Some have faced threats of deportation, a situation similar to that facing the children of Vietnam War refugees in the US.
Fry calls for identifying a “new enemy” of the people: misleading information like the false claim that the NHS would save 350 million pounds a week after Brexit and the repeated lies in the U.S. about undocumented immigrants, crime, and terrorism. “Perception of crime levels,” he says, “has become completely detached from reality,” especially since the biggest security threats come from hate crimes and right-wing violence, a situation reported on, warned about, and ignored, for several years.
As in the US, so in the UK: relentlessly repeated claims about “invasions” has created a very hostile environment for millions of people. Are the facts likely to sway those voters who were carried away by excesses of hate and fear? Probably not. But those who care about the truth should pay attention to Fry’s debunking. The facts about immigration and other issues used to sell far right policies and politicians, as he outlines in these videos, are entirely different than what Brexit leaders and their counterparts in the US want the public to believe.